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City of Belfield discusses zoning, moving City Hall

At its monthly meeting, the Belfield City Council deliberated on re-establishing a chamber of commerce, moving City Hall to a more convenient location and zoning regulations on garages.

Councilmembers Pam Gross, left, and Ed Braun of the Belfield City Council.
Councilmembers Pam Gross, left, and Ed Braun discuss zoning issues during the Belfield City Council meeting Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022.
(Jason O'Day / The Dickinson Press)

BELFIELD, N.D. — The Belfield City Council held its monthly meeting Tuesday, discussing a wide range of issues from moving city hall, zoning, economic development and the American Legion.

Zoning

Councilmember Pam Gross floated the idea of partially loosening ordinances to allow garages independent of homes because she wants to encourage growth. Zoning board member Kevin Hushka and City Building Inspector Mel Zent expressed strong opposition to the idea.

“Well, what can this zoning board do to make Belfield more attractive so people build houses? People are not building here,” Gross said.

According to census data , Belfield’s population for 2000 was 866, 800 in 2010 and climbed to 966 by 2020.

“Not until you get grocery stores… Until you get more of that, unfortunately small towns will remain just the way they are unless we have one hell of an oil boom or coal boom,” Hushka said. “Putting garages on empty lots is not going to help this town prosper by any means. It could actually hurt this town. If something comes up 10 to 15 years down the road, you’re going to have no place to put houses.”

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Zent said he’s surprised Belfield hasn’t grown more as it is located at the intersection point of Highway 85 and Interstate 94. Belfield hasn’t had a chamber of commerce for many years and Zent said that could make a difference. Councilmember Bruce Baer said he would work on that, and reach out to the Stark County Development Corp. to seek assistance.

Current code restricts garages based on home size. The zoning board suggested changing restrictions to allow for the construction of bigger garages. The change permits any homeowner to build a garage as large as 1,200 square feet with sidewalls up to 12 feet high.

“Now, I could build a garage and put my pickup in without having to fold the mirrors up and let the air out of the tires,” Hushka said.

Baer made a motion to approve the zoning board’s changes to the code, contingent on a review to make sure they don’t conflict with existing city ordinances and consultation with City Attorney Sandra Kuntz. The motion was approved in a 3-2 vote, with Northrop and Braun voting no.

City buildings

Baer made multiple proposals regarding buildings the city owns and moving City Hall to a new location.

“I’m not expecting any decisions tonight but let’s have some conversations on it and see where we’re at,” he said.

Memorial Hall, which houses the Belfield American Legion, is currently owned by the city. Baer said the group has been a great steward of the building by performing regular maintenance and investing a substantial amount of money in upgrades. He wished to transfer ownership to the legion, but that would require a public bidding process. Kuntz suggested the alternative of offering them a 99-year lease for $1.

The city currently stores records at multiple locations and that complicates the process of finding information. Baer said he would like to move City Hall to the old police department. Under his plan, city council meetings would be held in the city-owned theater building.

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“This building would then be sold,” he said. “This small room gets crammed sometimes. We currently own the theater building. We had meetings down there during COVID and it seemed to work okay.”

Baer also sought reports by next month from Belfield entities that receive taxpayer funding, such as the fire department and park board among others.

“I would move that we have the city auditor write a letter to all the entities that are getting sales tax revenue from the city itself and request from them for a three year history,” he said.

Councilmember Braun tabled the motion, which was unanimously approved.

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